It’s very interesting to get John Amaechi’s reaction to Kobe Bryant’s gay slur and its aftermath since John is the only former NBA player to ever come out publicly as a gay man.
He talked to USA Today about the situation and, I think, has some good advice for Kobe.
Q: What was your first impression when you heard Bryant’s remark?
A: I’m surprised that people are surprised. This is common language when I played. It was an everyday word that I heard. I haven’t seen anything new put in place (by the NBA) to tackle homophobia. There’s no reason for it to somehow get better.
Q: And what do you think of Bryant’s statement of “apology”?
A: I suppose that’s the typical, “I apologize if you’re offended”‘ type of comment. I doubt very much when he said that that he thought Bennie was a pile of sticks. There’s only one contemporary meaning for that.
The problem we have now is because of the way we don’t address homophobia, the ultimate insult to a man is to tell them either they’re like a woman or worse, that they’re gay.
We have to take it as unacceptable as a white person screaming the N-word at a black person. … I can tell you that I’ve been called a f——- fairly routinely, and yet people seem to hold off on calling me the N-word. We’ve got to mirror that progress.
Q: Q: Do you think the remark makes Bryant homophobic?
A: The reason it’s difficult is because of how influential he is. When he talks, not just young people but sports fans in general listen. They mimic. He sets a tone that says, “This is acceptable language when you are frustrated.” It isn’t acceptable language. That’s the larger extent of the damage. That’s like a Glenn Beck non-apology. With a few more words well-chosen he could do some good.
I don’t think he is any more homophobic than the average person, or most certainly your average person in sports. When you’re in the spotlight, when a camera is trained on your face on a daily basis, you don’t have the luxury of losing control. When you do, I like to see people be a little more contrite than that.
Given so much news media attention being paid to this, is that a sign the climate is changing?
A: There’s certainly more attention on the fact that it shouldn’t be used but is too frequently. But I was watching the video clip of it, and there was no particular outrage from the announcers (Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller, Kevin Harlan of TNT). They were simply saying, “The cameras should come off his face now.” When somebody says the N-word it’s like the air is sucked out of a room, or an arena.